The idea of getting a face transplant is relatively new because our technology has only recently been able to accomplish such a complex task.
Dr. Samir Mardini is a doctor who specializes in facial reconstruction and he met Andy Sandness shortly after one of the most difficult days of his life. Sandness was depressed and drinking too much when one night in 2006, he decided to kill himself. He shot himself in the head with a rifle, leaving his face completely disfigured.
Mardini did his best to reconstruct the man's face but he was mostly unsuccessful. Sandness, who was happy to be alive, had to confront the idea of getting dozens of surgeries and skin grafts when the team at the Mayo Clinic suggested a face transplant.
There is still a stigma around face transplants because they're misunderstood.
Most of what makes up your facial structure is your bones and muscles. This means that someone else's face will look different when placed on yours. These were just a few of the questions Lilly Ross had about donating her late husband Caden's facial tissue after he died, also after shooting himself in the head.
Ultimately, she decided to honor his memory and his request that he be an organ donor. These two men who experienced similar inner turmoil would now be connected forever.
The surgical team practiced for more than 50 hours before they felt confident enough to perform the surgery. It was hugely successful. You can see Sandness look in the mirror for the first time below.
Sandness still couldn't speak, so he grabbed a spiral notebook. "Far exceeded my expectations," he wrote, handing it to Dr. Mardini, who read the message to the group.